Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2022 Rankings

The best treasures are worth looking for, and may even be hidden right beneath your nose. That’s true for colleges as well. The best college for you might be one you haven’t heard about yet! College Raptor is dedicated to showing students and families a wide array of college options. That’s why we wanted to highlight schools that deserve more attention. We call them Hidden Gems.

For this list, we’ve found the top Hidden Gem school in each state — including DC!

To qualify as a Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors
  • Have a 10% acceptance rate or higher

Curious about the top Hidden Gem college for your state? Check out our map and our list below of schools that deserve more attention!

Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2022

Hidden Gem Colleges by State 2022

ALABAMA

Samford University accepts about 84% of students. Many will go on to major in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Registered Nursing, and Journalism. Originally known as Howard College, it was founded in 1841. It is affiliated with Christianity and was converted to a military hospital during the Civil War. 63% of the student body study at the undergraduate level.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,692

ALASKA

Alaska Pacific University, also known as APU, was originally called the Alaska Methodist University when established in 1957. It is right next to the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Native Medical Center. APU offers up to the doctor’s degree level of education. 98% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs.
Location Anchorage, AK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 529

ARIZONA

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus is located just north of a wildlife sanctuary and the Willow Creek Reservoir. Alumni of the school have gone on to have impressive careers as astronauts, scientists, military members, authors, athletes, and politicians. Embry-Riddle has an acceptance rate of 67%.
Location Prescott, AZ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,946

ARKANSAS

Almost all students who attend Hendrix College are undergraduates, with Psychology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, and Economics being the most popular majors. The school’s motto is “εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον” which is Ancient Greek for “Unto the whole person.” Known as The Warriors, students compete in the Southern Athletic Association.
Location Conway, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,121

CALIFORNIA

Harvey Mudd College has under 1,000 students and offers programs only in science and engineering. It has a 14% acceptance rate, 97% first year graduation rate, and an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 904

COLORADO

Colorado Christian University has an incredibly high acceptance rate - 98%! Unlike many schools who use Latin in their school mottos, CCU takes inspiration from the Greeks. “χαρις και αληθεια” translates to mean “Grace and Truth.” Psychology is the most popular major, followed by Business Administration and Nursing.
Location Lakewood, CO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,587

CONNECTICUT

"Scientiæ Cedit Mare," or “the sea yields to knowledge,” is the motto of the United States Coast Guard Academy. It was founded in 1876 and is the smallest of the five academies for service in the United States. The most popular major is Political Science and Government, but Business Management, Civil Engineering, and Oceanography are also top choices.
Location New London, CT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,069

DC

Trinity Washington University is a Catholic university that has five schools. A majority of students who attend are from Washington DC, Maryland, and North Carolina. They have a 12 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Health and Wellness is the most popular major, followed by Business Administration and Management, Social Psychology, and Registered Nursing.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,707

DELAWARE

Goldey-Beacom College was founded in 1886 and is on a 24 acre campus. They accept just over 55% of applicants. Offering 13 varsity teams, athletes are known as Lightning, and they wear blue and gold. They are led by their mascot known as Strike. Business Administration and Management is a popular major for students.
Location Wilmington, DE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,327

FLORIDA

The New College of Florida is a liberal arts school that’s part of the State University System of Florida. The school has a contract system – instead of grades, students are given written evaluations and semester-long contracts, agreeing to pass a certain number of classes each semester. The idea behind this is that it encourages academic experimentation and curiosity for other topics.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 726

GEORGIA

One of the Seven Sisters, Agnes Scott College is a women’s undergraduate school, but offers co-educational graduate programs as well. The school underwent many name changes since it was founded in 1889, starting with the Decatur Female Seminary. The school has a number of interesting long standing traditions including Class Colors, Pestle Board, and Black Cat.
Location Decatur, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,067

HAWAII

Chaminade University of Honolulu accepts just under 90% of applicants. With an 86% first year retention rate, the school has an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Top majors include Registered Nursing, Criminal Justice, and Psychology. Total, the school offers 23 fields of study to undergraduates.
Location Honolulu, HI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,167

IDAHO

Did you know the College of Idaho is the oldest private liberal arts college in the state? The school offers up to a master’s degree. Graduates of the College of Idaho have gone into impressive careers in business, politics, law, and sports. The acceptance rate is just below 50% and the school does not charge students to apply.
Location Caldwell, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,091

ILLINOIS

Wheaton College was founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 and would become a stop on the Underground Railroad. Business is by far the most popular major at the school. Athletic teams are known as The Thunder. They wear blue and orange and compete in the NCAA Division III in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,004

INDIANA

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology focuses on math, science, and engineering. It was originally founded as the Terre Haute School of Industrial Science in 1874 in an effort to teach technical training to assist with railroad construction. It would get its current name in 1971 after financial support from the Hulman family. The top major is Mechanical Engineering.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,038

IOWA

Luther College got its start as a Lutheran seminary by Norwegian immigrants. The seminary would be closed at the start of the Civil War and college classes would be opened later to only 16 students. Today, the college has a first year retention rate of 84% and a six year graduation rate of 80%.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,951

KANSAS

Benedictine College’s core values are built into the four “pillars” of the school which are known as Catholic, Benedictine, Liberal Arts, and Residential. The college’s motto is “Forward. Always Forward.” A majority of students decide to major in Finance, Registered Nursing, and Theology. Its campus is located along the bends of the Missouri River.
Location Atchison,KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,158

KENTUCKY

Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts over 75% of applicants and 80% will graduate within 4 years. The highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, so you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. Centre College does not charge an application fee for any students interested in attending.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,411

LOUISIANA

The Centenary College of Louisiana is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River, having been founded in 1825 originally as the College of Louisiana. Students can benefit from a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio and experience the 65 acre campus which has over 300 species of plant life. Quite a few students will go on to major in Biology.
Location Shreveport, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 574

MAINE

Located on a peninsula in the Bagaduce River and Penobscot Bay, the Maine Maritime Academy is a non-federal maritime training school. Students are not required to join the military after graduation. With a 11:1 student to faculty ratio, the school also has a first-year retention rate of 80%.
Location Castine, ME
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,006

MARYLAND

Founded in 1840, St. Mary’s College of Maryland was originally known as St. Mary’s Female Seminary. Today, it shares its campus with Historic St. Mary’s City, which is the state’s first colony and capital. The school has a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio and an 85% first year retention rate. A majority of students attending today are female, but the school is co-educational and has been since 1949.
Location St. Mary’s City, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,513

MASSACHUSETTS

Mount Holyoke College is the oldest member of the Seven Sisters colleges. Their motto is Psalms 144:12 – “That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” The campus features a botanic garden, the art museum, and John Payson Williston Observatory. Computer Science, Biology, and Econometrics are popular majors.
Location South Hadley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,300

MICHIGAN

Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 96% first year retention rate and a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and science courses. 88% of students will graduate within 6 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,526

MINNESOTA

Partnered with Saint John’s University for men, the College of Saint Benedict is exclusively for women. Resources are shared between the two campuses, a partnership that began in 1955. The College of Saint Benedict got its start in 1913 with only six students. They have an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio, 85% first year retention rate, and 76% four year graduation rate.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,748

MISSISSIPPI

A very small school, Millsaps College was founded in 1890. The college has produced several notable alumni including Johnny Carson, Vic Roby, and Gary Burghoff, among others. They accept 70% of applicants, with 75% staying after their first year at the school. The most commonly chosen major is Business, followed by Biology and Psychology.
Location Jackson, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 820

MISSOURI

This university is named in honor of Harry S. Truman, who was a Missouri native. Popular majors include Business Administration, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Biology. Athletes are known as Bulldogs and their mascots are Spike and Simone. 94% of students at Truman State study at the undergraduate level.
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,231

MONTANA

Though the school seal features two lions, Carroll College’s mascot is actually a St. Bernard named Halo. Student athletes compete as the Fighting Saints in sports like track, basketball, and soccer. The campus is located near Mt. Helena. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed by Health Services and Biology.
Location Helena, MT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,231

NEBRASKA

Nebraska Wesleyan University, or NWU, is a private university associated with Methodists. They have over 119 undergraduate majors, minors, and pre-professional programs available to students. Competing in the American Rivers Conference, they are known as the Prairie Wolves and wear black and gold. The school currently has over 530 athletes.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,044

NEVADA

Nevada State College, although only opening in 2002, was Nevada’s first state college. Accepting over 90% of applicants in 2020, 78% of students stayed on after completing their freshman year. Registered Nursing is by far the most popular major at the school. Their mascot is a scorpion named Scotty.
Location Henderson, NV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,584

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Saint Anselm College is the third oldest Catholic college in New England, having been founded in 1889. The school has been the site of presidential policy speeches from John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon as well as several national presidential debates. 100% of students receive institutional aid from the school.
Location Manchester, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,033

NEW JERSEY

Drew University goes by the nickname “University of the Forest” due to the fact it is on an 186 acre wooded campus. The school’s motto is “δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε”, which is Greek for "Freely ye have received, freely give” from Matthew 10:8. Blue and green are the school colors and the sports teams are known as the Rangers.
Location Madison, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,319

NEW MEXICO

Also known as New Mexico Tech, the school is focused on science and engineering. Mechanical Engineering is a popular major among students, followed by Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The school has several activities including rock climbing and hiking, a biweekly newspaper (Paydirt), and an 18-hole golf course.
Location Socorro, NM
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,835

NEW YORK

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, also known as Cooper Union, has under 1,000 students and only a 15.5% acceptance rate. Cooper Union only offers a few majors including Fine/Studio Arts, Engineering Studies, and Architecture. The school also boasts a high first year retention rate of 91% and has an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 952

NORTH CAROLINA

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, or UNCSA, was the first public arts conservatory in the country. They have five professional schools which are the School of Dance, School of Design & Production, School of Filmmaking, School of Drama, and School of Music. Cinematography and Film Production and Technical Theatre are common majors.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,086

NORTH DAKOTA

Although the University of Mary calls North Dakota its home, campuses can be found all over the world, including in Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru. They accept about 72% of applicants. University of Mary has a 13 to 1 student to faculty ratio and 80% first year retention rate. Its campus is located next to the Missouri River.
Location Bismark, ND
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,779

OHIO

John Carroll University has 70 programs available to undergraduates, with Finance, Marketing, and Biology being popular choices. The school was founded in 1886 and became coeducational in 1968. Alumni include Brian P. Cleary, Wade Manning, and Jack Kahl. 86% of the student body are undergraduate students.
Location University Heights, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,506

OKLAHOMA

Blue and white are the colors of Oklahoma City University’s Stars. Their mascot is a ram named Starsky. There are more female students than male students at both the undergrad and graduate levels - 67% and 60% respectively. 98% of all students on campus receive institutional financial aid to help pay for college.
Location Oklahoma City, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,687

OREGON

Willamette University is the oldest university found in the western part of the United States. It was founded in 1842 as the Oregon Institute. Today, the school accepts about 80% of students. There are about 330 athletes known as the Bearcats. Wearing cardinal and old gold, they participate in 20 different varsity sports in the Northwest Conference.
Location Salem, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,179

PENNSYLVANIA

Haverford College is a liberal arts school founded in 1833 by the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. It’s part of the Tri-College Consortium which means students can attend classes at nearby schools Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. “Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus,” or "Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning" is the school’s motto.
Location Haverford, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,317

RHODE ISLAND

Often abbreviated to RISD, this school was founded to expand access to design education to women. Nowadays, 68% of the undergraduate class consist of female students. The campus is located on the Providence River. Systems Science and Theory is the most popular major, followed by Illustration and Graphic Design.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,501

SOUTH CAROLINA

Founded in 1854, Wofford College is one of the few southeastern schools that was founded prior to the American Civil War that still exists today. The school has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an impressive 92% freshman retention rate. Wofford has a rather unique mascot - a terrier. Old gold and black are the school colors.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,720

SOUTH DAKOTA

The master’s degree is the highest level of education offered at Augustana University. However, only 14% of the student body studies at that level. The remaining 86% are undergraduates. Augustana, also known as AU, has a 12 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. About 48% of incoming students are from South Dakota, though many also come from Minnesota.
Location Sioux Falls, SD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,113

TENNESSEE

More commonly known as Sewanee, The University of the South sits on 13,000 acres. These grounds are more commonly known as “The Domain” or “The Mountain.” They accept 56% of applications and have a 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Economics is the most popular major among students, followed by English, International Studies, and Psychology.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,768

TEXAS

A small liberal arts school, Southwestern University has a 50% acceptance rate. Additionally, they do not charge students to apply. A whopping 98% of students receive institutional aid to help pay the costs of college. Business / Commerce is the most popular major, followed by Psychology and then Speech Communication.
Location Georgetown, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,511

UTAH

The doctor’s degree is the highest level of education offered at Westminster College. That said, only 21% of students on campus study at the graduate level. There is a cozy student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1 at this school. Additionally, there’s a first-year retention rate of 80%. Students come from all over the country to attend Westminster. In fact, only 49% of freshmen are Utah natives.
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,215

VERMONT

Saint Michael’s College has over 30 majors available to students, the most popular of which is Business. A majority of students come from the Northeast in the United States. Athletes are known as the Purple Knights. The school offers 21 Varsity sports including baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer.
Location Colchester, VT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,875

VIRGINIA

Originally known as the Augusta Academy and established in 1749, it would later be named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the latter of which was the president of the school for five years. With blue and white colors, students and athletes go by the nickname The Generals.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,264

WASHINGTON

Some who have attended Whitman College in the past include Adam West, Shane Johnson, Nate Cohn, and NASA astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger. Biology, Experimental Psychology, and Political Science are popular majors among students. The school has a cozy 9:1 student to faculty ratio and a 4 year graduation rate of 79%.
Location Walla Walla, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,579

WEST VIRGINIA

The most popular majors at West Liberty University include Business, General Studies, and Dental Hygiene. Today, the school offers over 70 undergraduate programs. It is the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia – founded in 1837. Black and gold are the colors of the WLU Hilltoppers.
Location West Liberty, WV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,496

WISCONSIN

Lawrence University was the second coeducation institution (founded in 1847) in the US. The three most popular majors are Music Performance, Economics, and Biology. Many alumni went into careers in politics, music, and sports. The campus sits along the winding Fox River. The bachelor’s degree is the highest level of education offered.
Location Appleton, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,442

WYOMING*

The University of Wyoming is one of the rare schools that features a live animal mascot - a horse named Cowboy Joe. Another mascot, Pistol Pete, is played by a student in costume. Brown and gold are the official school colors. Also known as UW, the university is a land-grant, space-grant, and public flagship school.
Location Laramie, WY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 12,249

*Note: While Wyoming did not have any colleges that qualified under our Hidden Gems criteria this year, we included the closest match. In the spirit of Hidden Gems, we feel it’s important to include schools from all states so students and families know about the opportunities around them.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

Methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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